Do You Cure Salmon for Sushi or Sashimi? (How to prepare)


Salmon is one of the types of fish enjoyed the world over. And it’s the 2nd most popular fish for sushi. But do you have to cure salmon for sushi?

As a general rule, salmon does not need to be cured for sushi, and cured salmon would not typically be served in sushi restaurants. But if the fish being used isn’t sushi-grade, curing the salmon can provide additional protection against parasites.

So, you want to ensure that the salmon you use for sushi is pathogen-free by procuring it from high-end fishmongers who would have ensured it was flash-frozen soon after it was caught to curtail the risk of parasitic infection.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

In the next few minutes, we’ll explore whether it’s okay to eat salmon raw if it’s a prerequisite that salmon intended for sushi should be cured. We’ll even find out if curing kills bacteria and removes parasites and a lot more fun facts about using salmon for sushi.

Let’s get to it.

cure salmon sushi lg

Can I use cured salmon for sushi and sashimi?

Absolutely, cured salmon can be a delectable choice for sushi and sashimi. However, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First off, the curing process changes the texture and flavor of salmon. While fresh salmon boasts a delicate and buttery profile, cured salmon typically has a firmer texture and a slightly saltier taste due to the salt and sugar used in the curing process. This means that your sushi or sashimi will carry these flavor characteristics, offering a different experience than the traditional fresh fish version.

Secondly, safety is paramount.

Curing does help preserve the fish and can kill some bacteria, but it doesn’t always eliminate parasites, which can be a concern with raw fish dishes. If you’re sourcing salmon for sushi or sashimi, it’s recommended to use fish that’s been frozen to a specific temperature to kill potential parasites.

Some cured salmon might be frozen prior to the curing process, but it’s essential to double-check.

Lastly, consider the type of cured salmon. Gravlax, a Scandinavian cured salmon with dill and other spices, could introduce unexpected flavors into your sushi. On the other hand, a lightly cured salmon without strong additional flavors might be more versatile and fit seamlessly into a sushi roll or as a sashimi slice.

In conclusion, while cured salmon can be used in sushi and sashimi, it provides a distinct taste and texture. As long as you prioritize safety and choose the right kind of cured salmon, it can be a delightful twist on traditional sushi and sashimi offerings. Just be prepared for a different, but equally tasty, experience!

Is it okay to eat raw salmon in sushi?

Yes. It is okay to eat raw salmon in sushi. But ideally, the salmon used would be labeled as sushi-grade or at least be previously frozen farm-raised salmon, which have an almost zero risk of parasites.

That being said, it follows that you run the risk of contracting an infection when you eat raw salmon. To fully eliminate this risk, you’ve got to cook salmon at an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C).

Salmon, like most other animals, is susceptible to the risk of parasitic infection, especially if it is caught in the wild. It may have bacteria, parasites, and other pathogens in it.

This is because of its nutrition, and it may also be triggered if not handled properly. Farmed salmon, on the other hand, is nourished with feed pellets and is less susceptible.

So, it is not only okay to eat raw salmon, but millions of the world overeat it daily. You simply want to ensure that you buy where you’re sure the fish you’ll be offered is fresh and of the best quality.

With what we’ve explored above, is it okay to eat raw salmon from the grocery store?

This is what I got into in a recent article I published. In it, I looked at whether it’s okay to eat raw fish from a grocery store and what happens if you eat raw salmon. I even shared what’s different about sushi-grade salmon.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Do they ever cure salmon in sushi?

No. Traditionally, salmon is served raw and uncured in Japanese restaurants. However, there are places where they are cured and are still raw. Curing is often done to enhance the texture and flavor by reducing the water content. Depending on how it is cured, salmon can be cured and raw.

But as I said, if the salmon you bought is “sushi-grade”, you may dispense with curing.

But folks who opt to cure salmon are convinced it makes it better. They feel that raw salmon has high water content and is often too moist and soft after it’s been butchered.

In curing, they are not so concerned about how safe the fish is. Rather, they are aiming for fish that is crispier and sweeter.

So, they cure it before it is prepared and served. When cured with kosher salt, for example, a substantial portion of the moisture is leeched off the salmon, consequently improving its texture, flavor, and taste.

Want to know more about what differentiates sushi-grade fish from regular fish? 

You’ll find a recent article I published riveting. In it, I explained what kind of fish is sushi-grade and if you can use frozen fish for sushi. But I also revealed if there’s a difference between sushi-grade salmon and regular salmon.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

How do you cure salmon for sushi?

To cure salmon for sushi, coat both sides with kosher salt, refrigerate for 1 hour, place fish in a pan with 1 bottle of rice vinegar and add enough water to cover the fish, and top generously with ice cubes. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Pat dry, wrap tightly and freeze for 48 hours or longer.

Let’s explore what the above entails in some detail.

To cure salmon for sushi, place it on a tray and pat it dry with paper towels. Then apply a generous coating of kosher salt on both sides of the fish.

Some people do a mix of sugar and salt, so add both to taste or just salt.

The goal is to ensure that the salt touches every piece of the salmon. Then, it is refrigerated for 1 hour. After which, you apply rice vinegar in a container that would fit the fish perfectly. For a decent-sized piece (or pieces) of fish, 1 whole bottle of regular rice vinegar (not seasoned) is perfect.

Let it cover about 75% of the fish, then add water, and ice, until it’s fully covered.

Then, refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour again. After removing it from the fridge, place it on a tray and pat it dry again thoroughly. Ensure that it is completely dry and then put it in a plastic wrap. Make sure it is air-tight. Then, let it freeze for at least 48 hours. The curing would make the taste and texture a lot better.

Now, can you make sushi with grocery-bought fish? 

This is what I explored in a recent article I published. I looked at what makes fish sushi-grade, and can sushi be made with any fish? Then, I showed whether you could use store-bought salmon for sushi. But I also revealed the most common fish used in sushi.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Does curing salmon kill bacteria or remove parasites?

When properly done, curing salmon can kill bacteria and the parasites in it. It may not remove them, but they would be rendered inactive and consequently ineffective. 

There are different ways that salmon can be cured. It can be dehydrated, it can be salted, you can add sugar, you can add vinegar or nitrite, and you can choose to smoke it.

When cured well, salmon is safe to eat, even if it’s difficult to say that the bacteria are dead and that parasites have been removed.

Salt is a common unsung hero in the way against pathogens. But its potency has been known for decades as it inhibits the growth of unwanted elements in the fish if cured.

That said, freezing salmon as prescribed by the FDA or cooking it at an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C) are the best ways to ensure you have no worries about bacteria or parasites.

How to prepare raw salmon for sushi, sashimi, and poke

Preparing raw salmon for dishes like sushi, sashimi, and poke requires attention to quality, safety, and technique.

Firstly, source the salmon. It’s crucial to get sushi-grade salmon from a trusted fishmonger or specialty store. Sushi-grade means the fish is of the highest quality and has been frozen to a specific temperature to kill potential parasites, making it safe for raw consumption.

Next, handle with care. When you bring your salmon home, keep it cold. Before working with it, ensure your hands, utensils, and workspace are impeccably clean. This helps prevent any cross-contamination.

For sashimi and sushi:

  1. Place the salmon fillet on a cutting board, skin-side down.
  2. Using a long-bladed sharp knife, start at the tail end and slice the salmon diagonally at a 45-degree angle. Your slices should be around 0.5cm thick for sashimi. For nigiri, the slices can be a bit thicker and shorter. Ensure your knife moves in one clean motion to get a smooth cut.
  3. If making sushi rolls, cut the salmon into thin, long strips.

For poke:

  1. Lay the salmon on the cutting board.
  2. Remove the skin by sliding your knife between the flesh and skin.
  3. Cut the salmon into bite-sized cubes, around ¾ inch each.

After cutting, keep the salmon slices or cubes chilled until you’re ready to assemble your dishes.

One last tip: Always taste a small piece of your salmon before using it in any dish. It should taste fresh and clean, with no off or overly fishy flavors. If something tastes or smells off, it’s best to err on the side of caution and not use it.

By following these steps, you’ll have delicious and safe-to-eat salmon for your sushi, sashimi, or poke. Enjoy the fresh flavors and the art of preparing these delightful dishes!

Can I use supermarket salmon for sushi or sashimi?

Technically, yes. But it comes with caveats. Most supermarket salmon is intended for cooking, not raw consumption. Here’s why:

Safety First: Salmon, like many fish, can host parasites. “Sushi-grade” or “sashimi-grade” fish has been frozen to temperatures that kill these parasites. Your average supermarket salmon? Not so much. If the label doesn’t explicitly mention it’s sushi-grade, assume it’s not.

Quality Counts: Sushi and sashimi thrive on freshness. While supermarket salmon might be fresh enough for that grilled salmon recipe, consuming it raw requires peak freshness. Some upscale markets might carry higher quality, fresher fish, but your standard store might not hit that mark.

Farmed vs. Wild: Many supermarkets offer farmed salmon. Farmed can be safer for raw consumption because of its controlled environment, potentially reducing parasite risks. However, it’s not a guarantee. Wild salmon often has a more vibrant taste but can come with a higher risk of parasites.

The Workaround: Really set on using that supermarket salmon? Freeze it first. By freezing your salmon to -4°F (-20°C) for at least 7 days, you can kill off most parasites, making it safer for raw consumption. Thaw it in your fridge after the freezing process. But remember, freezing for safety doesn’t elevate the quality or freshness.

Taste Test: If you do go the supermarket route, before making a full dish, taste a small piece. It should be fresh with no off flavors. If something’s amiss, it’s better to pivot to a cooked dish.

In a nutshell?

While it’s possible to use supermarket fish for salmon sashimi or sushi, it’s essential to be aware of the risks and take precautions. When in doubt, opt for guaranteed sushi-grade from a reputable source. Your taste buds—and your tummy—will thank you!

Conclusion

In the article, we found out if it’s okay to eat raw salmon.

We learned it’s okay if it’s farmed salmon or wild salmon that’s been flash-frozen as required by the FDA. Then, we explored whether salmon meant for sushi is cured. No. It’s usually served raw and uncured.

Then, we learned how to go about curing salmon and whether curing kills bacteria and removes parasites. If done properly, curing can render parasites and bacteria powerless. That’s why it’s an age-long practice.

Lastly, we wrapped things up by considering if curing makes salmon safe to be eaten raw.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is cured salmon healthy?

Cured salmon, often known as salmon gravlax or lox, is quite the treat. But is it a healthy choice? Let’s break it down.

Nutritional Nuggets: Cured salmon retains most of the health benefits of its fresh counterpart. It’s a good source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and various essential vitamins and minerals. Those omega-3s are celebrated for heart health and anti-inflammatory properties.

Salt Watch: The process involves salt curing, which can hike up the sodium content. For those monitoring their salt intake or with certain health conditions, it’s a point to consider.

Calories & Fat: While it’s a fatty fish, remember that most of these are the “good fats.” However, moderation is key as it’s also calorie-dense.

So, while cured salmon packs a nutritional punch, with the most common ingredients being salt and sugar, it’s important to moderate your intake of lox.

How do you make salmon safe for sushi?

Making salmon sushi-safe is crucial if you’re aiming for that homemade sushi night. Let’s navigate this process step by step.

Freezing First: The FDA recommends freezing raw fish to kill parasites. That’s at -4°F (-20°C) for 7 days or flash freezing at -31°F (-35°C) for 15 hours. Most commercial sushi places already do this.

Fresh Purchase: Always choose the freshest salmon. Look for “sushi-grade” or “sashimi-grade” labels at trusted fishmongers or stores. It’s an informal term, but it indicates the fish is of higher quality.

Storage Smarts: Keep your salmon chilled at all times. Before preparation, ensure everything – from knives to cutting boards – is clean to avoid cross-contamination.

By freezing first and practicing smart hygiene, you’re on the path to sushi success. Remember, always prioritize safety when dealing with raw fish.

Why do you cure raw salmon?

Curing raw salmon isn’t just a culinary tradition; there’s science and safety behind it.

Taste and Texture: Curing changes the salmon’s flavor profile. The process draws out moisture, which concentrates the fish’s natural tastes. This creates a firmer, silkier texture beloved by many.

Safety First: The curing process, using salt and sometimes sugar, helps inhibit bacterial growth. While it doesn’t kill parasites like freezing does, it reduces the risk of spoilage and some foodborne illnesses.

Longevity Lift: Cured salmon has a longer shelf life compared to its raw counterpart. The moisture reduction and salt presence act as preservation agents, extending the time you can enjoy your fish.

In essence, curing isn’t just for flavor’s sake; it’s a time-tested method that ensures we enjoy salmon in a safe and tasty manner.


Image by Jumi Kang from Pixabay

Jeff Campbell

Hi! I'm Jeff Campbell. I was a leader for Whole Foods Market for over 2 decades. I worked in 9 stores in 4 states, not counting the hundred-plus stores I've assisted in other ways. I was a Global All-Star, a Gold Pen Winner, and won Top-10 Store (company-wide) 3 times in addition to Best New Store (company-wide).

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